We Said, 'Jump!' A Tribute To The Film Careers Of The Original Stars Of 21 Jump Street

If you’re a child of the late 80s/early 90s like me, then you’re fortunate enough to remember 1987, or as I like to call it – the year that changed TV forever. Until ’87, TV consisted of the big 3 networks – NBC, ABC and CBS. It was simple and effective, because that’s the way that billionaires liked things back then. But then Rupert Murdoch said, “F*ck a bunch of that nonsense” and he announced the fourth network – Fox. As we all know all too well, it was all downhill from there.

Before 24-hour news networks became the stupidest things on TV, there was Kelly Bundy. Married with Children and The Tracy Ullman Show kicked the doors in on the home entertainment institution, and the Golden Girls proceeded to crap their adult diapers with this insane new Fox programming philosophy. TV now belonged to the youth movement and that meant one thing – 20-something actors pretending to be 16.
Beverly Hills, 90210 may have put its watermark on the idea that a 35-year old like Gabrielle Carteris could pretend like she was a high school senior, but 21 Jump Street started it all. Screw 90210’s ridiculous sideburns and white rapping nerds, because the genre of true high school drama began down on Jump Street, as a group of police officers infiltrated high school gangs and cliques in order to spread the gospel of anti-violence and drug awareness. It was a stupid, silly show with some of the worst acting of the past 50 years. And it was awesome for that.
Tomorrow, 21 Jump Street will see a cultural revival, as people who weren’t fortunate enough to experience the show in its original 1987-1990 run will witness Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum (C-TATES!) resurrect this cult classic on the big screen. But before that day comes, I say – nay, I shout! – that we sing the praises of the TV show’s original stars, and honor their amazing film careers.
Peete’s biggest movie role actually came before she became the star of 21 Jump Street, as she played K.C. in Howard the Duck. But 21 Jump Street marked the beginning of a long, solid TV career that featured a number of made-for-TV movie classics, including:

Killers in the House
Football Wives
Matter of Life and Dating
The Bridget Show

Peete returned to the big screen in 2010 with the film some people think they’ve heard of, Speed-Dating, and she has reprised her 21 Jump Street character, Officer Judy Hoffs, for the new film version. For some people, it will always be about the art above the paycheck.
(Image via Helga Esteb / Shutterstock.com)
The man who would reach legend status as Capt. Adam Fuller, Steven Williams already had quite the established career in show business before 21 Jump Street. It all began in the 1975 classic Cooley High, and it has lasted more than 35 years with a bevvy of powerful films and performances:

Corrina, Corrina
The Blues Brothers
Twilight Zone: The Movie
Missing in Action 2: The Beginning
Better Off Dead
House (not the TV show, but the film about… wait for it… a haunted house)
Under the Gun
The Forbidden Dance
Route 666

And there are plenty more films and TV shows where those came from. While Williams doesn’t have any projects announced for this year, we can only assume that he’s taking some time off to catch his breath. Or perhaps he’s just writing his acceptance speech for one of the many lifetime achievement awards he’s bound to win soon.
A lot of people think that Peter DeLuise got his break in the entertainment industry because his father, Dom, was one of the greatest actors of all-time. But that would be unfair to Peter and his incredible talent that was first displayed in the 1979 film Hot Stuff, which starred… his dad. But once he took the role of Officer Doug Penhall, the doors flew wide open for Peter, and he eventually starred in myriad classics, including:

Listen to Me (probably the greatest movie ever written about high school debate teams)
Children of the Night
The Silence of the Hams
Southern Heart
Between the Sheets

Few people can also forget his efforts in TV movies like Engaged to Kill and Bloodsuckers, in which he played Vondi the German Space Tourist and, if my memory serves me correctly, won every Emmy and Oscar for in 2005.
Few of the stars of 21 Jump Street actually saw their careers regress after the TV show’s run ended, but for some reason Depp chose to not only quit the show, but seemingly show business itself. I mean, I can’t think of a single film or TV show that he appeared in after 1990, and quite frankly I’m a bit shocked and disgusted that he chose to ignore the public that desperately craved to make him a star.
Depp will reprise his role as Officer Tom Hanson in the film version, but it’s just too late for him to try to pretend that he’s an actor again. What a waste.
(Image via s_bukley / Shutterstock.com)
Known by many as Vietnam’s greatest actor, Dustin rose to fame for his role as Harry Truman Ioki, a name which, in all seriousness, should have gotten a writer or two fired. But that’s how the 90s were, man, full of risks and ballsy choices, and Nguyen’s career was all about having big balls, with movies like:

Rapid Fire
No Escape, No Return
Heaven & Earth
3 Ninjas Kick Back
Vanishing Son II
Vanishing Son IV (seriously, f*ck Vanishing Son III)

Really, I should have just stopped at 3 Ninjas Kick Back, because that’s like the crown jewel on any actor’s resume.

(Image via Featureflash/Shutterstock.com)
Possibly the greatest actor of his generation, if not all-time, and if you disagree with me, you’ve clearly never seen If Looks Could Kill:

My only complaint is that this never became a franchise.
(Image via Featureflash / Shutterstock.com)
To be honest, I thought Peter’s younger brother was dead, but I think I confused him with Chris Penn, so there goes my tribute to Corky Romano. But much like his older brother, Michael also showed that being Dom’s son wasn’t about privilege as much as it’s about genetics and pure talent. Michael has always been a versatile performer, as proven in films like:

Wayne’s World
Encino Man (in the former, he was a stoner and in the latter he was a jock… that’s f*cking range, friends)
The Man without a Face
The Master of Disguise
He was a Quiet Man

And he may not have been in any films in 2011 or this year (so far), but that’s only because Hollywood is afraid of God-given ability. Quit being a bunch of cowards, nameless studio execs.
Remember what I said about 21 Jump Street being better than 90210? That’s just proven by the fact that Jason Priestley got his start on Jump Street. But he wasn’t good enough, so he had to settle for second best. Sure, 90210 “lasted longer” and “more people watched it” but is it being immortalized by Channing Tatum, AKA this generation’s Richard Grieco? I think not.
Besides, all 90210 did for Priestley was get him roles in films like:

Calendar Girl
The Thin Pink Line
Die, Mommie, Die!
Fancy Dancing
Made in Brooklyn

On the other hand, it’s because of 21 Jump Street that he was in Tombstone, and that movie was the tits. In conclusion, 21 Jump Street > Beverly Hills, 90210.
(Image via worldswildlifewonders / Shutterstock.com)
Much like Priestley, Mario Van Peebles was only in two episodes of 21 Jump Street, but unlike Priestley, Van Peebles never ran off and tried to pretend that 90210 was a better show. To be honest, I’m only familiar with a few of MVP’s films, but those films just so happen to be:

New Jack City
Highlander: The Final Dimension

That’s some iconic acting right there, all thanks to a little show known as 21 Jump Street.
(Image via Featureflash / Shutterstock.com)